A thunderous retrospective for a reggae storyteller


Prince Far I was a reggae DJ with a chanting style marked by a menacingly deep bass voice and an equally deep sense of giddy, yet morally focused, wordplay—a vocalist with the personality of an Old Testament prophet. Through poetically inventive storytelling delivered in a thunderously declamatory, percussive style, and a dedication to performing with studio musicians willing to tinker dutifully and dub-fully with formulaic grooves, Far I rejuvenated a musical style almost always marked by a stunning rhythmic and lyrical sameness.

Though he described his music as “letting the deaf hear,” Far I’s incendiary recordings have only been erratically available since his 1983 murder in his native Jamaica. Compiled by reggae critic David Katz, the carefully culled, two-disc Under Heavy Manners: Anthology 1977-1983 makes for a pluperfect overview. As emotionally urgent and rhythmically slashing as Howlin’ Wolf, Far I summarized his career as neatly as a Bible Belt preacher would Jeremiah’s: “Some of them get promotion by education . . . some . . . by sending men to the morgue . . . but I get my promotion by Rasta inspiration.”